Magazine article Tikkun

Readers Respond

Magazine article Tikkun

Readers Respond

Article excerpt

A NOTE ON LETTERS TO THE EDITOR:

We welcome your responses to our articles. Send your letters to the editor to letters@tikkun.org. Please remember, however, not to attribute to Tikkun views other than those expressed in our editoriah. We email, post, and print many articles with which we have strong disagreements, because that is what makes Tikkun a location for a true diversity of ideas. Tikkun reserves the right to edit your letters to fit available space in the magazine.

AFGHANISTAN AND THE LOTUS EATERS

WHAT IS SO STRIKING ABOUT THE war in Afghanistan is the silence. Barack Obama added 17,000 soldiers in the first month of his administration and then another 30,000 nine months later, all without a serious public debate about the mission and goal of the war, which has led to the American toll of 1,140 dead and 3,420 seriously wounded, as well as 24,000 killed or wounded Afghans. And if the Syracuse Post-Standard is any indication of our national interest, weeks can go by without a serious mention of the war, although over 100,000 U.S. soldiers serve in harm's way, and we have spent over $370,000,000 to date, with no end in sight.

We call Korea the forgotten war, but Afghanistan is the opiate war. I say this not because the war is about heroin trade, but because the American public seems to be in a trance and oblivious to the hardships, deaths, and cost of the war. And although candidate Obama said this was a top priority, President Obama hardly mentioned the war in his State of the Union address last year. This is a war without impression or shadow. Shame on us.

What is so troubling about the war is the misunderstanding of its purpose. If questioned as to the war's purpose, most Americans would say it is an effort to eliminate al-Qaida from its original training bases and to prevent this group of terrorists from ever returning to threaten our cities or shores again.

But if one reads newspapers from the Middle East, one would realize that for Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, and India- the major players in the region- the war has nothing to do with al-Qaida. No one is even thinking, much less talking about al-Qaida because the group no longer has a presence. They are struggling over the balance of power in the post-U.S. withdrawal from the region and over who will gain control of the politics and the minerals. They are playing a waiting game and performing a Machiavellian minuet, while America is playing the punch-drunk sailorinabar who is being laughed at by the crowd.

In light of our lotus-eater mentality, I thought two quotes from Bob Woodward's book Obama's Wars were illuminating. When asked, Richard Holbrooke, former Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, said ofthe surge: "It can't work." And when General David Petraeus was asked about the likelihood of success, despite the withdrawal deadline he said, "This is the kind of fight we're in for the rest of our lives, and probably our kids lives."

Perhaps the best example of our feckless efforts to date was the widely reported progress supposedly being made, according to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and General Petraeus, in negotiating for months with the Taliban for a peace deal involving power sharing with the Afghan government, only to learn on November 22, 2010, in the New York Times that we were negotiating and funding an imposter who was in actuality a shopkeeper with no connections to the Taliban. Is it conceivable that the United States could win this war, much less secure peace, if we don't even know with whom we are negotiating? …

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